(God’s way of resurrecting, reviving, and renewing the church)
‘The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” ’ ”’ (Ezekiel 37:1-6)
Here in this famous passage from Ezekiel 37 (vs 1-14) involving the dry bones we see God lay out before us a plan for the restoration of His family on earth, what we now call His church. Sure, it was also speaking to the people of Israel in the day, but there is also a prophetic call to the church of today, noting the reference to the Spirit coming from the four winds from the corners of the earth (vs. 9), and the connection with Him being poured out on all flesh at Pentecost (Acts 2). He revives by the gathering of His people, the ecclesia, according to His order, not ours, and releasing the Holy Spirit as resurrection winds. Remembering that the word church in the Bible, usually comes from the word ‘ecclesia’, meaning a called-out assembly or congregation, a gathering of those called by God. Let’s dive a little deeper into His anatomy of revival.
Let us consider first the ‘valley full of dry bones’ (vs. 1,2) The image is stark, these very dry bones, speak of the church as if dead, where life seems but a flicker of God’s plan. The church, the body of Christ, is pictured as being:
- Of the slain, or without hope (see verses 9 and 11),
- Weary, dried out (where the river of the Spirit does not seem to flow), where many are losing hope of seeing a church revived,
- Dead and buried – figuratively and literally
- Once a great army, now merely a shadow of itself
No longer the vibrant forces that shapes the world around it, rather a remnant of what has been. Sound familiar? Certainly in many parts of the western world.
In this passage God is revealing a key way to restore and revive (resurrect) the army of the Lord, His body of believers and heavenly hosts, through the prophetic unction, and the move of His Spirit. God begins by calling the bones back together – reconnecting across the whole valley (region). Bringing back together the basic remnants in right order, those things and people that form the foundation of His church. Reconnecting His people, for we are all the body of Christ. Remember the old song, and the words “the thigh bones connected to the hip bone..”.
This involves a realignment around Christ as the head, with the apostolic and prophetic foundations, the five-fold government of the church (Eph. 4:11), the centrality of the Word of God, realigning those people who are the pillars of the church (Revelations 3:12), etc., and so restoring God’s foundations. This gathering and alignment work maybe noisy, and seem somewhat messy at first, as the dry bones learn to reconnect in right order, sometimes banging into each other. But, in this we see the basic elements being built from which He renews the church.
‘I will put sinews on you’… Next, God raises up the those in the body of Christ who holds things together. Strong, but flexible, these are the hidden strength of the body, who out of devotion to Him and His body, believe in the whole of body of Christ coming together, and by His love hold together the different parts of the church. These hold on tight, and treasure relationships. Some are the bridge builders, reconnecting people from across the body of Christ. These special people, together with the strong chord of God’s love, reach out to the disconnected, and help hold together the bones. Linking the pillars of the body of Christ together, the bones being the foundations on which the rest hangs…our beliefs, the stable and strong, pillars of the house, the apostles, and prophets, etc.
‘But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, on these we bestow greater honour; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honour to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.’ (1 Corinthians 12:20-27)
‘Bring flesh upon you’…God then raises up those of tenderness, and the ones that truly embody all that is needed for the life blood and function of the church. The ones who love and heal, those who know about food, those who carry life around the body, the ones who carry the Spirit, the seers and hearers, those who do the heavy lifting, the God thinkers, and the ones who cleanse and remove the waste. These have depth, and in many ways are the unseen in the body of Christ but are essential. When we talk of the body of Christ, often people may see themselves as being the hand or foot, or maybe even the mouth or eyes, but what about the spleen, the veins, the lungs, the kidneys, the heart, and so on…all less ‘honourable’, but just as necessary.
But still no life breath is in the Body.
‘Cover you with skin’…Then God raises up those who seem more conscience of the outward appearance or are more visible in their actions. These form what the world sees and includes those seen as the figure heads or leaders of the movement/church. Apparently only skin deep, but still very needed, these are the ones that form the more easily seen part of the church. But they know they need the bone, sinews, and parts of flesh to be in place first, and it is only with them in position that they can have their ministry. After all what would a body be if it was only skin and bones? With them though, the body truly takes shape, and its outer limbs and other outward elements can become functional. This covering from the outside world is needed.
Once the bones have gathered and realigned, the sinews are in place, along with the things if flesh, and the skin comes to cover the body, and all is in place, then the word is released and the four winds (the Spirit of God) blow, and the Lord stirs up the resurrection winds and new life comes to the body of Christ, the ecclesia, the church.
God, in His wisdom, understanding that to restore the church, He often must allow it to be stripped bear, so that He can renew it around Him, and His design, and not the things of this world, or man, that caused it to decline. He also makes it clear that while the Body of Christ can have many parts, and even in right position, it is only in the Spirit of God there is life! And so, resurrection occurs as the Spirit moves, then the body is truly renewed. Without the Spirit of God, we are lifeless.
‘and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,’ ( Ephesians 1:19-20) God is on the move, and if we follow His lead, and watch, maybe we can see the Lord beginning to rebuild and revitalise His church in this land. But it needs humility, movement, reordering, and faith. As we all submit to Christ and hear His prophetic call upon our lives, we are ready to be positioned as He desires. This work has already been underway, and perhaps why we have heard of people moving. It may also give some indication about God’s plan with recent efforts to see people from across the churches start to come together with renewed heart for the body of Christ, and His gospel. And this is just the beginning. His mighty power is working in us to bring the church alive again. We can just follow His lead, submit to one another, and call out, “In the name of Jesus, come Holy Spirit come, blow afresh on us”.